A dog licking your hand is normal. It’s how they show affection. However, a cat is a different story. These felines aren’t widely known for their licking behavior, so it’s a bit strange when they begin licking our hands and fingers a lot.
Luckily, this is a reasonably benign behavior. Usually, it’s an indication of affection, though it can mean other things as well. Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons this behavior occurs, as well as what you might want to do about it.
What Does It Mean When a Cat Licks You?
1. A Social Bond
When two cats like each other, it isn’t uncommon for some licks to be exchanged. Usually, this is through grooming, but that isn’t always true. For example, mother cats lick their kittens, which helps create a social bond. It’s a cat’s natural response to liking somebody.
This sort of licking isn’t only confined to pet owners, though. Many cats will also lick other animals and felines in the home, especially if they like licking.
Some cats seem to like licking more than others. Just because your cat isn’t licking doesn’t mean they don’t like you. It seems to be mostly a personality thing, with some cats licking a lot and others never licking at all.
Some cats also lick things when they’re stressed. It’s like a nervous tick. Your cat may begin to lick excessively, which can include licking you. This behavior can also lead to your cat overgrooming themselves, which is basically where they lick a body part so much that their hair begins to fall out. They may also lick objects like the floor or their sleeping spot.
Stress isn’t always a sign of something serious. Cats get stressed for all sorts of reasons. Perhaps your routine has changed, and it has your feline on edge. However, sometimes cats can become stressed because of an illness. They are usually very good at hiding their symptoms, so you probably won’t even know that something is wrong.
If you notice that your kitty is licking a bit too much, keep your eye out for other strange behaviors too. They could indicate that something more serious is going on.
3. Your Hands Taste Like Food
If you’ve just eaten, it’s possible that the cat can still taste the food on your hands. This can cause your feline to lick your hands simply because it tastes good. Usually, you can tell if this is the why behind your cat’s behavior based on the circumstances.
Even cats that don’t seem to participate in social licking will lick your fingers because they taste good.
4. …Or They Taste Like Something Else
Even if you haven’t eaten anything tasty, your feline may still like the taste of something on your hands. This can include things like lotion and soap, which some cats find tasty. Soap and lotion are usually made with at least some animal fats. Those with higher amounts may be more prone to being licked.
Of course, cats usually only seem to like some soaps and lotions. Not just any soap or lotion will fit the bill. Therefore, it isn’t uncommon for your cat to only lick your hands after you’ve used a particular lotion or soap. They happen to like that one and not the others.
Some cats may lick you for attention. Usually, this involves only a single lick. Then your cat will sit back and stare at you intently. This usually means that they want to be petted or held. However, it can also mean that they need you for something else, like to open a door or refill their food dish.
This licking is obviously different from other types. In most other cases, your cat is going to lick you multiple times. However, licking when they want attention is only a means to the end, so they’ll stop licking when they get what they want.
6. Scent Marking
There are many ways a cat can mark something, but their tongue is one of them. Typically, when two cats groom each other, their scents mix. They “mark” each other during the process, and now they both smell like each other.
Your cat could be trying to recreate this scent mixing by grooming you. It is difficult to tell this reason apart from affection, mostly because scent-marking usually comes from a place of affection as well. Your cat may also knead on you, which helps mix your scents further.
Either way, this is mostly the result of your cat licking you, though they may be going about it a bit differently than you’re used to.
Your cat’s behavior is difficult to decipher at times, but if your pet licks you frequently, most of the time, it’s a sign of affection. However, stressed cats can also resort to licking their owners or other objects excessively, and in that case, they should be taken to the veterinarian for an examination to ensure the anxiety is not caused by a health issue. You can keep your hands away from your cat to prevent licking, and although they may seem upset by the rejection, they can rely on other methods, such as purring and head-butting, to show how much they care about you.
You might also like:
- How to Sedate a Cat for Grooming (3 Methods)
- Do Cats Lick Themselves to Get Your Scent Off? 3 Surprising Theories
Featured Image Credit: Svetlana.Is, Shutterstock